Why have gay rights become booming business in Uganda?
According to our blogger, foreign donors are desperate to be associated with the world's coolest cause and some Ugandan activists can't help but exploit all the cash coming in.
You know the age-old adage. Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach him to fish, he eats for a lifetime. This is what aid agencies say when they set up development programmes in Africa, after - elsewhere - it's been decided, usually unilaterally, that their money, technical expertise and presence are needed.
What brought this into sharp focus for me was the death of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. The 'poor' emerged in numbers rarely seen since Jesus conjured two fishes and a loaf of bread into a feast for 5,000. The jury is still out on whether Chavez actually gave his people a fish or taught them how to fish. But it is absolutely true that if there is money to be given away, there will always be willing takers.
And this makes for an appropriate to segue to Uganda.
In just a few years, the number of gay rights organizations in Uganda has mushroomed from around five to over 30. All of them have constituencies in Europe, the United States, Canada, South America and Britain that are trying to... help. Most of the would-be helpers are Chavez-like, paternalistic do-gooders with clear terms of reference to showcase their caring credentials.
Missing money and phony roll calls
Some of the donor organizations, however, don't seem too interested in what happens to the money they disburse. The popular rationale for this tends to be that they can't demand accountability from the downtrodden who are operating in secrecy.
The oppressed gays, lesbians and bisexuals of Uganda would be putting themselves at risk if they so much as cast around for a part-time auditor to ensure donations were being used for the reasons highlighted in their proposals, wouldn't they?
Yes. Gay activism is the latest bandwagon for bleeding hearts. And that sexy bandwagon is rolling into Uganda on the back of a worldwide pro-gay wave sweeping everything in its path. So far, so good; after all, what caring soul would decry efforts to help the downtrodden?
But this being Uganda, savvy individuals haven't taken long to figure out that there is money to be made in gay activism. I have it on reliable authority that the donors are nonetheless disbursing enough money to pay 10 teachers' salaries in Uganda for eight months - even when they are cautioned that they might be funding little more than a jamboree of conspicuous consumption.
I have received e-mails from intended recipients complaining that money sent to them is being diverted to other purposes by their leaders.
Then there are the fictitious membership roll calls. My phone number and name appear on the member lists of two relatively new Ugandan LGBTI organizations.
But I am unaware of ever signing up to be their member or attending any of their meetings.
Are donors this gullible?
Yes, some of the organizations in the West that go around cup in hand "on behalf of suffering Ugandans" are run by naive young people. They're barely out of school and they're out of their depth when dealing with crafty Ugandans.
This is well demonstrated by internet campaigns that have sprung up in the last few months, such as that of the Youth on Rock Foundation (its website now made private) and GEHO.
It's 2013, however, and more experienced donors know of the waste and misuse of their resources. But around the world, gay rights are highly sexy right now.
It is also shrewd public relations to be seen doing something towards the LGBTI-in-Africa cause. So, the donors simply turn a blind eye to the more egregious evidence of charlatanism.
Why? I think this is part of an ideological war between the left and the right, mostly in the US but also in Europe. The battle leaves donors in disregard for standards of accountability within organizations in their own countries and among mainstream NGOs in the developing world. The argument tends to go: if Scott Lively's Defend the Family is using money to fight for minds in Africa, so can the left.
What's more, with the right in retreat (even in its last bastion, the US), the left has an excellent opportunity to prove its caring credentials. If some of the funds are being wasted, so be it: the wider goal of changing mindsets globally justifies the lack of monitoring donated funds.
Yes, it is a disturbing trend. But you will not see it change soon because that is how practically every crooked, thieving, lying, inept regime in Africa has managed to remain in power - with a lot of unconditional help from friends in the US, Canada, Britain and Europe. Even when evidence of mismanagement and financial impropriety is presented to them, they pay lip service to financial accountability and keep the funds flowing.